April 6, 2020

Choosing to See Through The Pandemic Pandemonium

As I write this, the world is caught up in the coronavirus pandemic. What to say about it is anybody's question and nobody's answer. So many words, mostly coming out of anxious times of government-mandated social isolation and a reported major spreading of the virus. "The suffering is great!" "There is no end in sight!" And on ... and on! Communications in social media and news reports all say, "It is very hard to ....." There are no words to state what may be known, because what is known is not really known at all. Government, economy, health systems, every thing in this world that people trust is at some level of ineptitude. Everyone, and all things, are caught up in the pandemic. What's left is a longing for a freedom that no one knows how to describe.

This pandemic has brought upon us such a discouraging view of the world we're living in now. It's a view that dominates the news and social media, a picture of all that's wrong with life as we know it. It's dark and depressing! It's how life appears, it turns out, when God is removed from the picture. It's what happens when we choose to live in the shadows of our own "wisdom" and by the selfishness of our own shortsighted agendas. Without God, we deny any ultimate reality. We're left to wallow in our own limited and perverted realities. It's such a discouraging view of life!  And whether we admit it or not, we're all caught up in it to one degree or another.

This destressing picture of pandemic life revolves around a simple plot. We want to be free, but there seems to be no such thing as true freedom. It's really an inescapable paradox. God offers refuge from the burden of pandemic realities by asking us to share His burden. It turns out that true freedom is not the absence of the pandemic, but rather the acceptance of its limitations.  We tend to get this backwards. We work to get all we can out of the situation at hand when, in fact, we are made to give all we can in lieu of it. We consume constantly, when sacrifice is the path to true joy. We find it hard to believe that we're most free when we are yielded to God and share His suffering in this troubled pandemic world. One thing is sure! Without God, things finally have no meaning and nothing can remove the fear and anxieties in our lives. We find the answer to being caught in this pandemic when we end our frantic pursuit of happiness and security and, instead, seek God with all our hearts.

So, what are we to do during these days and months of being caught in the pandemic and quarantined or "sheltered in place?"  We can choose anxiety and fear, or we can live for the moment, enjoy what little we can, and quit looking blankly at the distressing news reports of our "terrible situation." What we have to do is come to terms with life as it really is - scary, fragile, frustrating, and yet yielding flickers of hope. Being alive during the pandemic and believing in God requires being caught in paradox. The two realities are side-by-side, sometimes colliding and sometimes turning away from each other. On the one hand, the world is a mess! The "invisible enemy" is everywhere and nowhere. It seems like there will be no end to it. On the other hand, there's a mystery to the working of God in the world, one, like the virus, we cannot easily see. Unlike the virus, God rules absolutely. But He grants us the freedom to choose, which introduces the possibility of bad choices bringing evil into the picture. Keeping balance in this paradox is the challenge for these trying days.

What we hopefully will learn, through all of this, is that any life we will ever have is a gift. God's favor cannot be earned, but it's possible to receive it. The receiving is called grace. Joy can exist with distress. The gift is being able to look at this pandemic world, see it all, deny nothing, and still look up, trust, and smile with a vibrant hope in God. We're much more than the news of the day. We're made to share in God's life and work, and at the end of our days to rest in God's goodness and grace. Knowing this takes faith, patience and eyes to see through the pandemonium of the pandemic. As we do, we finally come to see that we're not caught in it all, but free of it through faith in the wonderful presence of God.

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